Innovation in Surgery
History has demonstrated that innovation in medicine is vitally important and that new devices, drugs, and more have the potential to completely alter the delivery of health care to patients. The University of Michigan, with nationally ranked medical, engineering, and business schools, is uniquely suited for multidisciplinary collaboration to support medical innovation. The University of Michigan Department of Surgery is fully committed to the advancement of surgical innovation and entrepreneurship and has identified it as a core mission through the Michigan Promise. But how do we encourage and train our faculty and staff to pursue novel ideas, make cutting edge discoveries, and continually strive for excellence?
Michigan Surgical Innovation Accelerator Program
In December 2018, teams were invited to submit proposals for the Michigan Surgical Innovation Accelerator Program (MSIA). MSIA is a 6-month curriculum focused on how to accelerate development and commercialization of promising innovations and technologies into products that will impact surgical patients. The Department of Surgery invested up to $20,000 in each team to support defining regulatory roadmaps, customer discovery, intellectual property, and de-risking strategies. In addition, teams received 1 on 1 expert coaching and mentoring for moving projects to the next level.
Importantly, this program drew participants from all levels of training—undergraduate students to attending surgeons—and spanned multiple disciplines with involvement from other UM graduate schools. The goal is engagement and collaboration. Teams are not required to have a prototype, just a good idea, and the classes are designed to be applicable to everyone, even the “beginner innovator”. Two teams that were selected for MSIA and led by faculty members in the Department of Surgery were “RETREVA” and “My Weight Loss Journey.”
RETREVA is a novel device for specimen retrieval during minimally invasive surgery. With this technique, RETREVA aims to eradicate the challenges that all surgeons face when attempting to extract a large or inconveniently shaped specimen through a small incision or port site without sacrificing sterility or oncologic integrity. The device is equipped with a user friendly, rupture-proof bag that is specifically designed to apply longitudinal forces on a specimen to enable easy removal through a standard laparoscopic port site. Through participation in MSIA, RETREVA is near ready for prototyping. The team is led by Dr. Paul Gauger, residents Dr. Ton Wang and Dr. James Melvin, and medical students Lindsay Janes and Jennifer Lee.
My Weight Loss Journey
Weight regain after bariatric surgery is a well-recognized problem. There were an estimated 240,000 bariatric procedures performed in 2018. Approximately 16,000 of those will go on to reoperation due to weight regain or other complications. Assuming a cost of $25,000 per revision surgery, this could cost the healthcare system $42 million per year. To combat this, we developed My Weight Loss Journey, a mobile application that guides patients through the bariatric surgery process. Perhaps more importantly, the app helps patients maintain their weight loss by keeping them engaged in the post-operative period. The coaches from the MSIA program were integral in helping our team understand which stakeholders stand to benefit most from our invention. We have produced the app and are currently working with our software developer to further expand its features. The team is comprised of Dr. Amir Ghaferi, Rachel Ross, and Alirio de Meireles.
What is Our Future?
In order to ensure that programs such as MSIA truly make an impact in surgical innovation, there will need to be additional investments made. For our teams, the next step includes participation in MI-Pitch Club—a “Shark Tank” style competition and networking event—whereby potential investors can help accelerate progress for our respective groups. Additionally, successful teams can go on to larger internal funding programs such as MiTRAC, Coulter, or even external opportunities through venture capital funding.
Article by Ton Wang, MD; Alirio de Meireles, MD; W. James Melvin, MD; Amir Ghaferi, MD, MS
Reach out to join the conversation or to learn more about how to implement the Michigan Promise. Connect with the Department of Surgery or our faculty on Twitter to share your ideas or get in touch with the Office of Faculty & Resident Life to schedule a Michigan Promise presentation at your institution. You can also fill out our Michigan Promise Inquiry Form with any questions or comments.
Department of Surgery Office of Faculty & Resident Life
2210F Taubman Center
1500 E. Medical Center Dr.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109